The Ultimate Guide to Reishi: Queen Rei

The Reishi mushroom is our regal “Queen of Immortality” with an entire royal court of benefits. Let us introduce you! Don't forget to bow ;)

We like to think of our communitea as a fun place where we can gather together, provide information on our favorite ‘shrooms, discuss all things wellness, and make some bad mushroom-related puns (#sorrynotsorry).

Like any other gathering, it would be super awkward if we didn’t introduce you to our ‘shroommates before expecting you to mingle. Could you imagine mistaking a Chaga mushroom for a Reishi?

Yikes.

Never fear! These guides to each mushroom are to get that awkward small talk out of the way. We’re here to break the ice so that you know these ‘shrooms inside and out and can avoid a fungal faux pas.

All of our beverage mixes feature the same six mushrooms, which we have deemed the “6 Protectors Mushroom Immune Support Complex.” We believe that we have found the tastiest, ‘shroomiest, most immune-boosting mix of mushrooms that we could to give you a quality drink that is not only enjoyable to drink, but also gives you some awesome benefits.

Sure, we picked out these ‘shrooms specifically for their immune support, but each functional mushroom that we use has various other distinctions and benefits. We would be remiss if we didn’t give you a deep dive into each mushroom individually to let you know what makes them special.

So let’s dive in and learn all about the Reishi mushroom...

 

Introduction

Revered for more than 2,000 years, the Reishi mushroom (Ganoderma lingzhi) has become the stuff of legend. Named the “mushroom of immortality,”  or even more regal, the “Queen of Immortality” in ancient China, the positive effects are hard to believe. Celebrated for many therapeutic properties, including anti-aging, strengthening, and vitality effects, Reishi mushrooms were considered medicine. In ancient times, cultures believed it to enhance chi – the life force contained in everything. In a sense, that's true. By dampening down inflammation, good health, and functioning flow from redirecting your body's energy.

The look of the Reishi mushroom is very distinct — it is known for its different beautiful colors and its shiny, preserved look. The Latin name for the Reishi mushroom, Ganoderma lucidum, actually refers to how shiny the mushroom is (“lucidum” in Latin means shiny, and “derma” refers to skin). Reishi mushrooms have a wide-open cap and no stem, and they resemble kidney beans growing from tree trunks. They typically have a white outer edge and change colour as you get closer to the middle. Reishi mushrooms range in shades of red, brown, and orange. Their health benefits are most potent when their caps are bright and smooth, and the underside is bright white.

They grow on the hardwood trunks of trees in Asia, the South Pacific, and in parts of Europe and North America. They are usually found on dying hemlock trees but can also be found on birch and maple trees close to hemlocks. They’re a little harder to source than Shiitake mushrooms but well worth the effort. They often come powdered, and can be mixed into teas or when preparing food.

The Reishi mushroom grows best in temperate climates with temperatures ranging between 75-85 degrees and very high humidity – around 85%. Fresh air is essential, but these little fungi prefer their atmosphere to be very damp, and they like a bit of shade as well. It is not unusual to find them close to the brush and fallen leaves throughout forests.

 

many red reishi mushrooms growing out of mushroom grow bags

Figure 1. It’s easy to see why the Reishi mushroom’s Latin name, Ganoderma lucidum, refers to how shiny the mushroom is. Photo by John Naphat. (Pixabay).

 

Immunitea Support

Before we go into the host of other benefits that the Reishi mushroom has to offer, let’s look at how the Reishi mushroom supports immunity (or “immunitea” as we like to call it ;)).

Reishi mushrooms are renowned for their immune-boosting properties. In one study, athletes exposed to stressful situations found that Reishi mushrooms improved their ability to fight infections by boosting their white blood cells (which we know are an important part of the immune system). However, they also support the immune system through their anti-inflammatory effects.

Chronic inflammation slows our bodies down. When flooded with inflammatory chemicals, we become sluggish. Reishi mushrooms reverse the decline caused by chronic inflammation. Reishi helps to suppress the secretion of inflammatory cytokines. By doing so, it keeps the immune system in check. Moreover, it provides a substantial boost against inflammatory breast cancer, helping to fight cancer cells and regulate the immune response.

Not only do their anti-inflammatory properties help to bolster the immune system, but Reishi mushrooms can also alter inflammation pathways, thereby preventing the harmful effects of an overstimulated immune system.

But Reishi also acts more holistically, helping with the indirect causes of a weakened immune system. Depression, anxiety, and poor sleep have been shown to reduce immune functioning, as a result of stress. Therefore, by boosting your mood and improving sleep, as seen in mice, Reishi also has an indirect effect upon immune health. But more on this below...

 

Other Benefits

The Reishi mushroom has truly earned its title the “Queen of Immortality” with its innumerable and far-reaching health benefits. It is believed to reduce stress, help with high blood pressure and cholesterol, build stamina, and may even have anti-tumor properties. In particular, an analysis of polysaccharides extracts from Reishi had remarkable antitumor and anti-inflammatory effects.

In several studies, Reishi has been shown to have anticancer properties. In the test tube, extracts of Reishi led to the death of cancer cells. After a year of consumption, Reishi was shown to decrease the size and number of large intestine tumours in humans. And there have been even more studies backing the beneficial effects for cancer patients.

Also reported to lower blood pressure and cholesterol levels, Reishi is excellent for cardiovascular health. When tested in rats, the results were comparable to those of prescription medication over seven weeks.

Speaking of getting your blood pumping, According to Dr. Yumin, at Shanghai University of Traditional Medicine, red Reishi is “renowned for helping with sexual function, increasing libido and fertility.” Additionally, the Reishi mushroom also helps balance our hormones. Reishi mushrooms decrease levels of aromatase, an enzyme key to the conversion of testosterone to estrogen, and vice versa. In men, it will increase testosterone levels, which is known to boost energy and vitality. While in older women, it may abate the energy-sapping symptoms of menopause.

Reishi mushrooms not only work to support your bodily functions, but also your mind. They are associated with an increase in the depth and ease of sleep. Sleep is the time when our body replenishes itself, healing and repairing the damage of the day. By improving sleep, Reishi mushrooms help us maintain better energy stores throughout the day. For instance, a study of breast cancer survivors taking Reishi powder found four weeks of use was associated with reduced fatigue and improved quality of life.

People even reported experiencing less anxiety and better quality of life. In one study, people with aches, pains, and dizziness reported greater wellbeing and reduced fatigue after just eight weeks.

The reason for all of these miraculous benefits may lie in Reishi’s antioxidant profile. Antioxidants are particularly important because they help your body fight off the free radicals (molecules known to cause heart disease, cancer, and other conditions). In a study examining 14 different fungal species for antioxidant potential, Reishi was at the top of the list. It had an antioxidant index score of 30.1 (this score is a relative percentage of antioxidant potential compared to a powerful antioxidant: quercetin).

 

reishi mushrooms growing sparingly on a mossy log

Figure 2. Not only is the vibrant red Reishi the color of love and vitality, but it can also help with your love life and your vitality! Photo by GK_musaico. (Shutterstock).

 

Conclusion

The Reishi mushroom has so many benefits that it’s no wonder it has been used as medicine for thousands of years. From its anticancer and anti-inflammatory properties to its ability to reduce stress and anxiety, this humble ‘shroom can benefit your mind, body, and soul. Because of its myriad of benefits and fitting nickname the “Queen of Immortality,” we have dubbed the Reishi mushroom “Queen Rei.”

If you’d like to continue your research, we encourage you to check out our blog to learn about the benefits of all of our functional mushrooms and how they compare to one another.

Have you incorporated the Reishi mushroom into your diet? What benefits have you found to taking Reishi?

 

Cover Photo By puttography from Shutterstock.